Sunday, February 14, 2010

Peel Island- Park Rangers Rock!

We met Rebecca's good friend Rowley Dowling the Park Ranger who took us across to the deserted Peel Island in the middle of Moreton Bay. Peel Island used to be a leper colony and due the to the care and hard work of the Rangers the compound comprising of the hall, official residences and the leper huts is still standing. We drove along a rutted track through wild looking cypress and gum forest. It was very dry and the trees had dead branches ripped off by storms or drought hangng from the the canopy, many trees were covered in veils of dusty green "Old Man's Beard"
Suddenly the forest opened out into the lazaret, a mown, green lawn dotted with little wooden huts.Two of the leper's huts. The Rangers have repaired some of them and left others in various stages to show the history of the site.

This is one of the official residences where we stayed the night.

The best thing that we did on Peel Island was go for a real bushwalk. Rowley took us right into the wallum. It was hot. The wallum is extremely dense vegetation and we had to push our way through scratchy, prickly branches and grasses with sharp razor like points (I've learnt my lesson about wearing shorts when bushwalking!) To get back to the road we walked through head height ferns n a dry peat swamp, every so often our feet would plunge to through the dry crust to the knee and as you grabbed a paperbark stump to get your balance that too, would just come away in your hand. I loved it! When I was a kid we used to go "exploring" all the time time, my mother was surprisingly blase about this and would just call "Take the dogs in case of snakes!"
Artistically it was great to really get in amongst the wallum vegetation. Your eyes, nose and all the senses are taking in information and filing it away for later. We took heaps of photos but they really couldn't convey the excessive heat, prickly scratchy, fecund vegetation, the colours of the leaf litter, the cicadas shrilling, the smell of the dust as a dry papery stump crumbled in your hand.

Stradbroke Island- Brown Lake

We are entering the next phase of the collaboration. This last trip to Stradbroke was great as I managed to come sans children and had FOUR WHOLE DAYS(!!!!) to concentrate on ideas and the visual language of the wallum.
We spent a whole morning walking around and swimming in Brown Lake. This will be a significant location within the project. The tea tree stained water, creamy sand and dark brown rotting leaves on the lake floor combine with reflections of the sky and trees.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Twig Impressions Experiment

Working on this project and teaching a cuttlefish casting workshop, I have been inspired to venture out of my happy little comfort zone in cuttlefish casting by making impressions of these leptospermum twiglets from the Wallum. Inspired by what the students dared to do in class after informing them that "it probably wouldn't work but give it a go anyway", I found I was able to get quite delicate impressions in the cuttlefish bone. These castings are only 5cm long, to give an idea of scale. I also pressed some of the tiny tea tree seed cases into the cuttlefish, closed up the mould and poured molten scrap silver from the crucible to make these 2 pieces of double sided sheet: The castings are relief style owing to a brass sheet inner cutout mold. And the cuttlefish pattern shows its wavy texture in the background. Quite appropriately too I would say, as the cuttlefish bones were all found along beaches adjacent to Wallum/heath coastal areas like Kangaroo Island and Bribie Island.

Photo Process

Taking photos in the Wallum we have been experimenting with paper backgrounds to get a better outline of the intricate leaf and branch patterns. The paper encourages the illusion that the photo is being taken against sand or sky. This photo of Twigrushes was taken at Women's Lake and you can see how I extracted the strong black and white graphic which will make an excellent etching resist.
Then there are the beautifully serrated Wallum Banksia leaves photographed rather artificially by spreading them on a sheet of white paper. Photoshopped to make positive and negative resists for etching. Someone recently commented that these patterns are reminicent of 70s wallpaper design! They are certainly bold and reductive.

Results: Two silver pieces etched with the Wallum Banksia leaf pattern.

What to do with these metal plates that are accumulating around me like loose pages from books remains an enigma.